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Archeology and Reconstructing History in the Kenya Highlands: The Intellectual Legacies of G.W.B. Huntingford and Louis S.B.

Leakey Author(s): J. E. G. Sutton Reviewed work(s): Source: History in Africa, Vol. 34 (2007), pp. 297-320 Published by: African Studies Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 15/03/2013 09:25
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J.E.G. Sutton I A preceding article examined the ethnographic, linguistic and archeological and L.S.B. Leakey (1903 (1901-1978) enquiries of G.W.B. Huntingford 1972) in the Kenya highlands in the "high colonial" era of the 1920s and 1930s?the one, a young settler, researching independently in the Kalenjin region west of the Rift Valley, the other brought up on an Anglican mission station in Kikuyu country to the east and then, as an ambitious prehistorian, concentrating his activities in the Rift itself.1 That article pointed to their contrasting approaches to these disciplines, observing how each in his own his anthropology from his archeology, way separately compartmentalized with the result that any sense of the history of the existing peoples whom and Kikuyu?was denied. This sequel they studied?Nandi effectively their archeology more critically, beginning with their basic examines approaches and methods, and then tracing the impact of their work on sub sequent scholarship and research endeavors, and especially on those anx ious to reconstruct East African history in the changing intellectual climate leading to Independence. The article concerns itself therefore with what Leakey in the late 1920s basin within the designated "Neolithic cultures" in the Nakuru-Elmenteita elevated stretch of the Rift Valley, to which subject Mary Leakey subse to Sonia Cole's essays at synthesis in the quently contributed, leading 1950s/1960s; and also with the Azanian hypothesis of Huntingford, which was rediscovered by Basil Davidson in the late 1950s and, with some deft
lSee History in Africa 33(2006), 287-320.

History inAfrica 34 (2007), 297-320

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for an emerging transformation, catapulted centerstage African history of a positive and enlightened sort. II Neither


of East

Huntingford nor Leakey underwent any formal training in archeo logical fieldwork methods; and anyway the former, emigrating from Britain in 1920/21 soon after leaving school and without professional skills, never attempted serious excavation. He clearly regarded his linguistic and anthro investigations of greater import. But Leakey, embarking on his pological

first research expedition in 1926 and boldly attempting to excavate ancient in burials that same year, seems to have relied on his native intelligence devising suitable excavation techniques. Although he had just completed his Cambridge B.A., only one year of study had been devoted to Anthropology broadly defined, and that without, apparently, much of a methodological side. Such lack of emphasis on content, at least on the archeological and field techniques would have been rather typical of curricula of that time, but other budding archeologists would have gained their excavation experience by assisting established figures on sites that his memoirs are not in Britain or elsewhere. Leakey did not?assuming through any such apprentice deceptive on such formative influences?go ship. These questions of methods and practical training (or lack of it) need, as well as Leakey's case, to be considered alongside their in Huntingford's broader archeological outlooks on embarking upon fieldwork inKenya. told in the preceding article?grew up with an enthusi Huntingford?as asm for archeology, or rather for antiquities visible on the landscape, and a scholarly interest in their historical significance, which he indulged as a youth in parts of England andWales and carried out to the Kenya highlands. research methods academic In this new environment he immediately set about exploring (and pursuing leads offered) on the Elgeyo border, Uasin Gishu plateau and adjacent north Nandi (presumably getting around on foot, horseback, or bicycle). Most of this early exploration was on land allocated for European farms where, as a new arrival from Britain, he would doubtless have been indoctrinated into settler attitudes regarding such matters as African land-use and history. set himself this interest in antiquities, the young Huntingford Alongside to learn the Nandi language, and this linguistic competence naturally facili tated his recording of ethnography and folklore as he ventured further into in 1925-27 while teaching at the Nandi "reserve" (living there, moreover, side he was from the start locating numer Kapsabet). On the archeological with ous hollowed features?some with earthen sides and banks, others revetted stone or appearing as small walled enclosures?which, by applying his

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$ $

^\ <^ 0 \,
/ /
Sketch map ingford?in of Kenya and northern and around Nandi?and Tanganyika, showing of Leakey?Kikuyu, locations of research Olduvai, Rift Valley,

[I /*
* ^
of Hunt east side

of Lake Victoria etc. Map from Sutton, "Anthropology and Archeology" HA 33(2006).

British archeological and the terminology fashionable then, he experience took to be former hut-circles, and groups of them "pit villages." As was explained in the preceding article, in this interpretation he was local wisdom, that of Kalenjin informants (and of consciously contradicting white farmers who had learned from the former), which insisted that these both earthen and stone-lined, had been the defended cattle-pens of a previous population called Sirikwa. (with their adjacent dung-heaps) as an earlier Kalenjin-related These were remembered group (or, in some a former Maasai the manner of branch). Assuming interpretations, perhaps hollows,
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the intellectual from the start, Huntingford spurned this local historical as of the function of the well as the Sirikwa connec hollows, explanation tion. Instead, he insisted that each hollow and enclosure must have con tained a house, and that they were evidence of a more ancient population unrelated to the present Kalenjin (orMaasai for that matter). They formed the core of what he pronounced, rather pretentiously, the "Azanian civiliza

as became abundantly all these counts Huntingford was mistaken, in the 1960s, through critical re-examination of his basic premises as clear as new well research in the western highlands. In particular, archeological in several Sirikwa hollows have vindicated the testimony of excavations that they did not contain roofed informants by confirming Kalenjin dwellings, but constituted stoutly fenced and gated cattle-pens open to the sky. There were of course thatched round houses to accommodate families On in the same complex or, in areas of external grazing, smaller shelters for herd boys (and the newborn calves and kids), but such huts and houses were attached on the outer side of the fence (often hidden behind the dung-heap), and were not responsible for the formation of the hollows. Other more recent findings, including ethnographic comparisons and the dating?a span that from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century as now established?show these Sirikwa represent an early phase of the Kalenjin, before the main Maasai expansion and the changes in cattle husbandry and herding methods, partly in reaction to stock-raiding, which affected the broader region.3 Nev had been observant level Huntingford ertheless, at the purely descriptive on were accurate the and his sketch-plans whole, so that, despite reasonably the striking oddity of his deductions, he deserves credit for bringing the
of the Sirikwa traditions the hollows, with his dismissal in a typed memoran set out by Huntingford in 1926/27 in Nandi" Monuments and Historical dum on "Ancient office, Kapsabet; (Nandi District in and in his article, "Local Archaeology collection), copy in SO AS Library, Huntingford Journal 6(1926), Society of the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Kenya Colony," of idem, "Remarks and, more 3-25, esp. 13-15, 24-25; upon the History emphatically, for a till 1850" in ibid., ns5(1927), Nandi variations, 3, 6. It was reiterated, with minor 2This contrary interpretation as a modern "exaggeration," of was wider academic readership in "The Azanian that was Civilization 153-65, esp. 155-56,162. name "Azanian" for his the first occasion of Kenya," 7(1933), Antiquity on which he proposed the

Although the notion was consistent in effect alien, civilization, imagined, see his Nandi Work and Cul with his earlier thinking. For later summary restatements, is ture (London, irrelevant this essentially 1950), 6-11, where archeological digression settled in an empty to insist that the Nandi included merely (and the rest of the Kalenjin) to the Oxford History also his contribution land already abandoned by the Azanians?and and G. Mathew, London, 1963), 71-74. of East Africa I (ed. R. Oliver 3See my "Hyrax and Hill, 73-112. 33(1998), (Nairobi, of Kenya Highlands Archaeology of the Western of the Central Rift Valley the Later Archaeology 1973); also idem, of Kenya," Azania

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regional archeology,

and that of the Sirikwa

in particular,

to scholarly atten

he also attributed to In describing certain other types of remains?which was apt to be carried away in a fanciful direc the Azanians?Huntingford
tion. His "ancient roads" must, despite his protestations to the contrary, be

cattle tracks, especially where they approach watering points or mostly cross valleys on soft soil, while the short pieces of irrigation canals he recorded in Nandi may perhaps stand similar explanation.5 Especially unconvincing was his interpretation of a loose collection of broken rocks on the crest of the West Nandi escarpment as a fallen monolith or menhir.6
was rarely in the 1920s, Huntingford maps were unavailable large-scale the precise locations of sites, a drawback faced by any subsequent attempt to follow up on the ground. Moreover, by the 1960s some features had suffered damage or destruction and this trend has continued radi apace since, following through farming, 4Since detailed able to record cal changes 5Huntingford, civilization," porary, G.E.H. in land tenure and land use across the region. "Local Archaeology," 20; idem inMan (1931), article 45; idem, "Azanian 158-61. However, he avoided the gross fantasizing displayed by a contem "The Ancient of the Rift Valley," Man Civilization Wilson, (1932), article

a hodgepodge of largely remains 98, presenting imaginary archeological (including in dispersed extensive and equally fantastic parts of Tanganyika agricultural terracing) see "'Ancient For my own comments historical Civilizations' and Modern explanations. in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania," Azania 4(1969), 1-13; and Systems Agricultural for cattle-tracks, "The 'Ancient Dams' of Tanganyika 105 Azania Masailand," 8(1973), 14. Quite plausibly, the appearance of Wilson's to set article of 1932 spurred Huntingford observations in western and to articulate his Azanian archeological Kenya the following of settler imagination year. For another example theory in Antiquity running see the statement wild on the basis of fanciful archeological Hook features, by Raymond about Mount geoarcheologist) and surrounding country quoted by F.E. Zeuner Kenya inMan (1948), article 14. "Local Archaeology," 16-20. He avoided mention of (a highly respected of out his own

6Huntingford, monoliths/menhirs

this feature?and

"Azanian two but revived the subject Civilization," generally?in in Kenya," later: "Megaliths 9 (1935), 219-20. See also Huntingford, years Antiquity a contribution "The Hagiolithic of East Africa: to the megalithic Cultures East problem," ern Anthropologist 3 (1951), esp. 123. The way the Antiquity note of 1935 is introduced that Huntingford suggests a question to forwarded the It editor. also that he by journal's appears responding a granite second thoughts on whether these broken pieces of rock at Tobolwa, having in which

was was

a former Nandi stone, deliberate escarpment, really represented standing and breakage. I visited Tobol ly shaped and erected there, rather than natural exfoliation wa in 1962, and again in 1964 with a copy of Huntingford's and illustrations description no convincing in hand, but could discern it seemed that sign of human work, although some stones had been moved since Huntingford had sketched them in 1922 and 1924. A photograph 1935 note does not resolve the issue (and accompanying Huntingford's its authorship is not acknowledged). as probably But it is noteworthy the only instance in numerous of a photograph an to illustrate Huntingford's publications being employed archeological object case of photographs or feature. being The same attached to his ethnographic The one applies recording. to a published article of his occurred through his

tor on the West

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the Azanian "package" he cited reports of varying quality describing deep wells and other random features, both abandoned and still in use, in distant (and mostly drier) parts of Kenya and northern Tanzania which he did not have the opportunity to inspect personally. In

to bolster

attributing these dispersed and disparate remains to a single period and "civ so it would appear on any ilization"?an inherently unlikely conclusion, was to count?he inclined assertion rather than to argue objective employ from tangible evidence or cultural comparisons. Huntingford's archeology was thus confined to field survey, with rough measurements of features (obtained by pacing, one might guess) and basic descriptions. For these purposes, he would have had to clear or burn the grass and bush (presumably with the help of farm laborers), simply for access and visibility. Only once, apparently, did he go a stage further by in Sirikwa hollows or, as he called them, attempting limited excavations "hut-circles."7 Generally, it seems, he had, as a lone researcher, little incli nation for excavation, let alone the necessary experience, but felt confident that he could see, or reasonably infer by surface inspection, all the essential details of the features he examined without the need to delve further. But in fact his interpretation of the supposed "hut-circles" as sunken dwellings with flat roofs did need to be tested by excavation eventually proved otherwise.8


as explained,

in the field by a physical Hon. P.L. O'Brien, for accompanied anthropologist, east of Nandi: "Modern Hunters," forest-dwellers Journal (Dorobo) studying Okiek of the Royal Anthropological Institute 59(1929), of which the final section (376-78) 333-78, are all by O'Brien. and photographs Two of those plate-pages (plates XXVI-XXVIII) illustrate "the physical features of the Dorobo," while the third has valuable illustrations

serves their dwellings. the photograph of a "young Nandi warrior," which Otherwise, as frontispiece to Huntingford's book, The Nandi (London, 1953), looks like a of Kenya stock picture, perhaps information services. It had already supplied by the government's been used in a set of twenty "tribal types" which were inserted into the end-pages of the of handbook, military and C.R.V. Bell). East African 1945, prepared (Nairobi, Background by Huntingford to sketch by hand (with pencil and notebook) Huntingford preferred and to illustrate sites and objects with ink drawings, such as appear in most of his articles on archeology in Kenya "The Town of Amud," Aza Somalia, (and one on northwestern at this "ruined nia 13[1978], 181-86?a based on notes made posthumous publication town" have done in 1943 during wartime so sparingly. duty). If he ever used a camera in fieldwork, he appears illustrat was on to

7Huntingford, ing a hearth

the family's on rather vaguely 8Ibid, 13, speculating in East Africa," Certain Culture Elements 91(1961),

"Local Archaeology," 9-10, mentioning in a second example. This "excavated" farm. rafters and Journal

pottery thus retrieved and site, in the Kipkaren valley,

255-56, 271, more specifically in the published (then available literature) of Iraqw semi supposed ethnographic parallel in northern Tanzania. sunken rectangular houses Similarly Mary Leakey, "Report on the at Hyrax Hill, Nakuru," Excavations Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa

of thatch; and in "The Distribution Institute of the Royal Anthropological a flat roof, this influenced illustrating by the

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role in Kenya, Huntingford was not In this amateur field-archeological of the English shires, one who would of the gentleman-antiquarian atypical have contributed to the county historical and archeological journal. While and the scholarship behind his he seemed proud of his local knowledge in this subject or interpretations, he never claimed to be a professional described himself as "archaeologist." Leakey saw his role very differently, adopting the air of a professional on his return to Kenya in 1926 straight from Cambridge. Although he came map,

with an obvious ambition of putting East Africa on the world archeological it is difficult to discern a clear plan of work (or anything which would
in modern academia as a "research design"). As mentioned, he had?

trust the silence of his autobiography on significant fieldwork and virtually exposure to archeological experiences?minimal none to the principles and techniques of excavation. During his university vacations he seems not to have volunteered to assist established archeolo gists or joined an undergraduate "dig." In fact his memoirs are surprisingly silent about archeology in Britain in the 1920s and its practitioners; there is no dropping of names. His own involvement, other than his final-year stud inasmuch as one may ies in Cambridge (supervised largely by AC. Haddon, a formidable seems pologist of the old school but hardly a field archeologist), consisted of visits to unspecified "important sites where prehistoric eries had been made" and to museums around the country (and also many) to inspect collections of stone tools and fossil bones.9 But
had nothing whatever to record about famous sites or current

anthro to have discov in Ger Leakey


either visiting
He had,

them or lending a hand to gain experience.

as an undergraduate during a year off (owing apparent

it is true,

ly to an injury on the Rugby field), spent a long season in 1924 excavating dinosaur bones with a Natural History Museum expedition to southern Tan ganyika, having been selected in London for this assignment because of his
assumed 271-409, 30/4(1945), esp. 355-72, (partly in deference a house with at Hyrax Hill Sirikwa hollows (Site II) contained the She with that citing supposed Iraqw parallel. persisted to Louis) that each of the a flat earthen roof, again her interpretation despite

so clearly in her meticulous excavations that the hollows were not rectan demonstrating but circular in their original and equally the absence?which she can construction, gular for stout internal posts, which would have any sign of holes didly acknowledged?of wa a heavy flat roof. The Leakeys' for supporting of these Sirik interpretation reached of Huntingford, and they had the advantage of independently in 1935. Mary Leakey's error here may be partly having actually examined Iraqw houses to British archeology, that of the Bronze and Iron Ages, by her earlier exposure explained been essential hollows was and its terminology etc.?which for the visible features of those "barbarous" Hill she thereupon applied to Huntingford's. comparable in her Hyrax report. times?hut-circles, In that respect of 1925, when pit her he


was background 162. This was mostly in the summer 9White African, esp. and traveled across England and Wales. bought a motorcycle


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East African background and knowledge of Swahili. As assistant to the director of this project, Leakey learned some useful skills in retrieving fos sils and in recording and encasing them for safe handling. But his account is strangely laconic about the sites, the strata (if any were observed) and the methods of excavating. The rationale behind the expedition seems to have been impressive specimens for study and, with luck, recon structible dinosaurs to grace the Museum's galleries (an ambitious aspira and their parts scattered tion, the skeletons having been disarticulated through fluvial or estuarine transportation in the Jurassic period).10 This to collect
hunt" approach, with its accent on recovering specimens, was to


typify Leakey's subsequent archeological career. It would be unfair to sug was that he unconcerned about the contexts of his discoveries, lithic as gest as he well as skeletal, or their environmental appreciated from settings for, the start, such clues were crucial for dating. But his focus was clearly on the finds, with an eye for the spectacular. seem?at least by the standards of later Such background would a student defective for embarking on research in arche decades?definitely no in uncharted territory, with supervisor or suitable mentor ologically sight.11 It seems that in 1926 Leakey had gained his expedition and its funding by demonstrating tance with the region and confidence of results, Age tools and, with luck, the skulls if not whole approval in Cambridge for a combination of acquain that is locating both Stone skeletons of their makers.12

10There Tendaguru explanation

is a useful


in Gerhard






Expeditions of the fossil

(Bloomington, bone scatters,

2003). For cursory see John Parkinson,

of the sites and descriptions in East Africa The Dinosaur

1931). (London, who from 1919 was Commissioner would have been E J. Wayland, 11A partial exception to archeology, lake levels, and former in Uganda, with interests extending for Geology at Elmenteita in 1927 and climatic article). He visited Leakey (see previous sequences sedi Rift Valley then investigating Erik Nilsson from Sweden, 1928. Another geologist, ments for several weeks (White shared camp with Leakey change, for part of the second 10, 12). Also, Age Cultures of Kenya Colony, was from recruited a young John D. Solomon, (1929) specially geologist, expedition in a letter from Wayland to the East African as assistant. Standard Britain Interestingly, to publicise his in the same newspaper to an article of Leakey's late 1926, in response to concede that stages of the in a willingness shows him being ahead of Leakey mission, for evidence 201; of climate African, Stone but might have had prior of those of Europe, Part II: and Prehistory of Uganda, a Number" in "Memorial is 7-9. 1952), surveyed Wayland's Prehistory (Kampala, as an see especially, Merrick of the Uganda Journal, 31(1967); Posnansky, "Wayland 9-12. ibid., Archaeologist," obsidian had collected As a boy, Leakey fanciful 12This was not an entirely aspiration. Stone Age ity; see C. in Africa need not be derivatives The Pleistocene van Riet Lowe, Geology career of the Late Stone Age, near the family home at Kabete tools and flakes, doubtless mostly in the Rift Valley, and a rich had been collected 68-69, 80-81). Others (White African, hand-axes had been reported by the eminent geolo Early Stone Age site with Acheulian

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less weight were questions of methodology required for obtaining and properly recording

and the technical expertise those results. In the event

Leakey built his experience by trial and error, devising his plans and impro vising his field methods as he went along, as well as grappling with the of the Rift Valley, these being so essential for geology and geomorphology and correlations. stratigraphy dating In moving his expedition's base from the family home near Nairobi to the Rift Valley farms of the Nakuru-Elmenteita basin late in 1926, Leakey had a couple of leads to follow. These were brief notes of stone tools (recorded in particular by Professor JW. Gregory near Lake Naivasha, observing how the shore location indicated a higher lake level, with impli cations for climate history) and also random reports from settlers (one a let ter to the East African Standard) about "strange" or "interesting" discover ies of skulls and burial mounds.13 Although these burials were not especial ly exciting in retrospect, nor necessarily very old?from anthropologist on the trail of "early man"?they provided
Leakey and his assistants were stumbling on other sites

the angle of an a start, and soon

and artefacts or


random reports through the farmers' grapevine. Especially productive was Gamble's Cave, a wave-cut resenting an ancient high stand of Lake Elmenteita-Nakuru,

rock-shelter rep whose excava

tion was mostly undertaken in the second expedition, that of 1928-29. This site revealed, besides some human skeletal material, a succession of rich archeological layers typified by obsidian blades and their by-products, as was later demonstrated?as which Leakey identified?mistakenly, the local equivalent of the Aurignacian culture as known in France. This stage of the Upper Palaeolithic was reckoned some twenty or thirty thousand years old (although at the time Leakey did not hazard a precise dating).14
gist, East J.W. Gregory, whom Leakey had met in Nairobi and Geology (The Rift Valleys of was that site, Olorgesailie, relocated in the 1921, 221; Africa, by the Leakeys in 1925/26 Leakey visited Prof. Hans Reck in Berlin, who had record 1940s). Moreover, as well as a human ed mammalian at Olduvai in 1913 (White African, fossils, skeleton, 175-78; and see accumulating the lower Nile reports the preceding would have article). Also broadly encouraging of Stone Age finds and sites in other parts of the continent, valley and South Africa. been the notably

l3White African, 14A few sherds Gamble's Cave

Stone Age Cultures, 283. 183,189-96; 1-5, 278-79, of pottery were discovered in these supposedly Aurignacian layers at in absolute with conventional II, a finding disagreement archeological

indeed until the present. However, thinking at the time?and encouraged by locating one sherd in situ and excavating it on the occasion of a visiting scientific party (so that a dis J.H. Fleure, could be cited as witness), felt bold FRS, tinguished professor, Leakey to report it in Stone Age Cultures 120-21; see also idem, White African, (103-04, enough This apparently 232-33, 257-58). and in the scientific establishment fantastic more claim caused concern with questions generally, such as culminated conclusions, during the 1932 season. among about his supervisors his field meth to the

ods, as well as his bold and hasty Kanam fossil jaw fragment discovered

in the reaction

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The erroneous comparative these results assignation notwithstanding, from Gamble's Cave, together with other sites in the district, some of them with patently much older tools, which Leakey recognized?correctly?as to the Acheulian (hand-ax culture), as again defined in France belonging (and found in southern Britain too), gave him the outlines of a presentable sequence. That formed the basis of his first book, The Stone Age Cultures of Kenya Colony, published by Cambridge University Press in 1931, a doctor ate being awarded as that went to press. That publication sets out the prehistoric sequence as Leakey ordered it then by combining the evidence of his discoveries, as well as the geological pointers for other Rift Valley sites, with broad principles of cultural evolu tion, while constantly keeping inmind the European framework for his own and his readers' basic reference. In the event the Kenya sequence and its ter could not be handled quite that simply since, while hastily writing minology up (in 1929-30), Leakey was unable to disregard the more independent scheme of Stone Age classification which was right then being propagated in South Africa, in particular by John Goodwin in Cape Town, with a mea sure of zeal and explanatory (and justification gaining quasi-official endorsement from the South African Association for the Advancement of This initiative of Goodwin's was, moreover, given advance pub licity by Miles Burkitt, his former Cambridge supervisor and now Leakey's, whom Goodwin had invited to South Africa to advise on the direction of Science).
archeology The Isaac) only cian would there.15

was Cave resolved anomaly largely by new excavation (by Glynn showed the lowest layers to be tests, which 1960s, followed by radiocarbon some eight thousand years old, and the attribution of the lithic finds to the Aurigna as known to be based on superficial in Europe resemblances (or, as some authorities Gamble's in the it, parallel

The revised dating is still very early for pottery by gen evolution). context of the but fits well into the Middle African comparison, "aqualithic" an attribution situation of the level in ques early Holocene, supported by the lakeshore as the subsequent from the boxes of bone fragments tion, as well identification, among of distinctive bone harpoons; J.E.G. Sutton, "The Aquatic Civiliza excavations, Leakey's put eral world

tion ofMiddle Africa," JAH 15(1974), 527-46.

15See M.C. AJ.H. Town, Africa" Past in Stone and Paint Burkitt, South Africa's 1928), esp.l6f; (Cambridge, Goodwin and C. van Riet Lowe, The Stone Age Cultures of South Africa (Cape see Janette Deacon, in Southern "Stone Age Research 1929). For later comments in Peter Robertshaw, A History 1990), 43-45, (London, of African Archaeology in ibid., 80-81; C. in East Africa" "The Development of Archaeology and Thurstan "Burkitt's Milestone," 123-31; Shaw, 60(1986), Antiquity

and Robertshaw, et al., Schrire "Goodwin's ization

579. And for "the South African Graft; Burkitt's Craft," Antiquity 65(1991), some in the 1920s/early endeavor in which J.C. Smuts, of prehistory" 1930s?an for and for a while of the South African Association the time prime minister president as part of his "sub-imperial of Science, encouragement provided pointed of Field-Marshal N. Schlanger, "The Prehistory Smuts," Antiquity his ini between the need for a compromise Leakey must have realized principles and the South African scientific initiatives during his visit to


ist" agenda?see 200-09. 76(2002), tial Eurocentric

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in virtual academic isolation in Kenya (a country lacking a sci Working of the sort which South Africa could then boast), entific establishment Leakey would have found himself caught in mid-stride unprepared for this initiative from the south; and his belated effort at revolutionary mildly doubtless explains some of the oddities, if not inconsisten accommodation cies, in both the nomenclature and the overall sequence propounded in his book of 1931. One device, probably intended to satisfy his skeptical super visors or to deflect anticipated criticism, was simply to prefix "Kenya" to the European cultural labels; hence Kenya Acheulian, Kenya Mousterian, to a couple of South African ones too, notably and Kenya Aurignacian?and Kenya Stillbay for collections dominated by fine leaf-shaped points. This rather oddly Stone Age in Goodwin's scheme?appears Stillbay?Middle as after Cave the Gamble's dictated (but Leakey's main stratigraphy) by
"Kenya Aurignacian".16

In subsequent publications Leakey quietly dropped or grudgingly retract ed individual terms, such as substituting Kenya Capsian for Aurignacian. But he never properly rethought his original approach, and he did not a more logical system of classification to conform endorse wholeheartedly a built around for South Africa.17 That, with Goodwin's sequence of Earlier, to Late Stone Middle, and European Palaeolithic divi Ages (in preference

Associa of the British and South African in 1929 for the joint convention that country a summary of his Kenya in South African he presented tions, where findings, published tell us nothing 749-57. memoirs Journal 26(1929), Unfortunately Leakey's of Science or about reactions to his work in Johannesburg, about the content of the scientific meeting or contacts the long journey:" Leakey, White African, its being "well worth made, except sites. 253. He did not have time to visit any South African archeological Burkitt's idea (South Africa's 16This seems to be a way of accommodating Past, 86) of stone tools (imply traits or modes of manufacturing of particular cultural or parallel Later in Leakey's lines of technical evolution). sequence Kenya ing divergent a for microlithic is borrowed another South African materials term, Wilton, (see below), so labeled. This with sites in Southern Rhodesia noted in particular similarity being the continuity are set out in of his chosen and Leakey's defense sequence, terminology, hybrid Kenya section of the book considers, rather cursorily, 27-28. A concluding Stone Age Cultures, and both South Africa and Europe, this having the look of a between Kenya comparisons conversance to demonstrate with the latest research and think exercise hastily concocted deriving on such comparisons in his Stone Age Africa of 1936?a book ing. Leakey enlarged acute observations from a lecture series, combining with not always reflective Ancestors (1936) with their charts of cul (1934) and Stone Age Africa to the European remained system conceptual Leakey firmly committed it to his own findings and ideas and, where necessary, accommodat adapting but without Goodwin's theoretical categories, embracing underpinning That procedure albeit under strain, in the fourth edition of persisted, in Sonia Cole's work Prehisto (1953), and in the synopsis of Leakey's

thinking. 17In both Adam's tural sequences,

ly, merely ing South African Adam's Ancestors

of the latter scheme. ry of East Africa


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increasingly found favor among the next generation of archeologists working in the intervening region, being championed by Desmond Clark in sions),

issues apart, Stone Age Cultures as a book Conceptual and classificatory is strong on outline conclusions and illustrations of tools representing each "culture" or phase.19 But it is not easy for the critical reader to discern how some of the tool assemblages, from which Leakey illustrated particular cul tures or phases, were actually obtained, or could have been confidently cer tified as representative and stratigraphically unmixed collections. Some, as far as one can tell, consisted partly if not largely of flakes and tools picked from eroding surfaces and their outwashes (and selective bagging too), their any arche geological provenance being inferred if not guessed. Moreover, or to to follow check the up, ologist wishing needing geological-cum-strati graphic situation or any other detail of the numerous sites at which Leakey or excavated, is frustrated by the lack of excavation reports and illustrations of the essential plans and sections. He may have kept copious notes and drawings at the time, but virtually never in his career did he make collected his excavation evidence available by publishing a normal scientific site report.20 In effect Leakey's results are not replicable for a combination of
J. Desmond 18In particular, Clark, The Prehistory (Harmondsworth, of Southern Africa influential in the periodic meetings voice of the Panafrican 1959); and his increasingly at Livingstone of Prehistory, in 1955, with its Resolutions and the Congresses notably on Terminology:" see J.D. Clark, of a "standing establishment committee ed., Third on Prehistory This concern for sys (London, 1957) esp. xxxiii-iv. and conformity in documentation scientific along principles reached its high point at the Sixth Congress in 1967, which was preceded (Dakar) by a to in 1965 that resulted in the volume Background special Burg-Wartenstein symposium Evolution in Africa, ed. WW. and J.D. Clark (Chicago, Recom 1967) containing Bishop Panafrican Congress tematic nomenclature mendations on Stone Age terminology, also under Clark's African Prehistory, on finished 19The bold concentration bulk of the "waste" would, and the simultaneous appearance of the Atlas of the at coordination. for types and disregard be considered flawed?or

tools of recognisable together with the crude statistics, a later generation of Stone Age least grossly skewed?by more meticulous and systematic approach were Mary Leakey

that archeologists. Leading and, from the 1960s, Louis'

Clark?further Isaac, who?encouraged by Desmond graduate assistant, Glynn pioneered new environmentalist of Early Stone Age sites and assemblages. interpretations 20There are cursory "preliminary reports" (e.g., on the late Iron Age remains at Engaruka, to site and excavation in his books and allusions discussed below) reports as "forthcom on Gamble's in 1934 a manuscript Cave for the jour claimed he completed ing." Leakey information it "got lost somewhere:" Stone Age Races, 47, 56?but Isaac, who delicately enquired thirty years later. For this site there are "dia in Stone Age Cultures, sections" 15-16. grammatic figures in the The model and Njoro River Cave, excavated reports on Hyrax Hill by Nakuru nal Prehistoire?cf from Glynn late both 1930s, were sites. Louis' of who conducted virtually entirely written by Mary Leakey, to these was in examining main contribution the skeletons. at Olduvai their careers, the detailed reports of excavations work. Louis' Olduvai Gorge of 1951?whose sub-title, the work on at Similarly were almost on the

a later stage entirely Mary's

A Report

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and Reconstructing


in the Kenya



and conceptual reasons, not least his idea of a continuously methodological Stone Age sequence which he hoped to demonstrate in its entirety evolving in a single region. From the information at hand it appears that Leakey's early excavation or consistently observant of stratigraphic efforts were not very methodical Rift sites he tackled?a cairn piled of the At the first Valley principles. a bit of a Burial Site?he admits called the Nakuru volcanic cliff, against confusion as the stones, already partly disturbed by the farmer, were dis
mantled.21 Another suspected, and more serious, uncertainty concerns the

pottery and other materials found here. It seems, from separate allusions and the Kenya Museum's holdings, that potsherds collected from the surface (whether by the farmer or by Leakey's team) around the foot of the adjacent Hyrax Hill may have been boxed together with those recovered from this cairn. At least Leakey certainly assumed, through a combination of weak logic and inexperience, that such intervisible sites with rough stone piling should be related.22 A distinction should have been recognized from the contrasting pottery styles and other finds, although admittedly itwould have been difficult to discern a consistent pattern of cultural correspondences until more sites and collections of potsherds were available for a compara
tive exercise. The anomalous associations at the Nakuru Burial Site, backed

by Louis' authority, are painfully obvious on reading Mary Leakey's report of her excavations on the Hyrax Hill sites, both the "Neolithic" and the Iron Age features, some years later.23
Evolution two decades Culture in Beds I-TV, betrays its conception of the Hand-Axe site and excavation Stone Age Cultures, details. skips over essential is the report of a site in southern England which striking exception

pre the

viously?like The one

while on leave in 1950: L.S.B. Leakey, Excavations Preliminary Leakeys of investigated a Mesolithic Site at Abinger Common (Research Papers of the Surrey Archaeological of flint artefacts by Mary Leakey's distinc 3, 1951). This includes fine drawings Society tive hand, as well as a description of a "pit-dwelling" for ethno (35-38) with an allusion, on the Mau escarpment to Dorobo in Kenya. (Okiek) dwellings graphic comparison, 114. Moreover, his anecdotal 200; idem, Stone Age Races, 21Leakey, Stone Age Cultures, account of excavation of Gamble's (in Leakey, White African, esp. 218f) of the progress Cave?and rock collapse of the dangerous of the team were at work? while members that enthusiasm for recovering and especially human skeletal finds, remains, suggests control. overrode systematic 113-14. 201; idem, Stone Age Races, 22Leakey, Stone Age Cultures, Later 23M.D. Leakey, under the "Hyrax Hill." again, Merrick Posnansky, working in the same district, at first that the Sirikwa at Hyrax assumed remains Leakeys' aegis Hill and Lanet were "Neolithic: The Neolithic of East Africa" Cultures in Actes du IVe de Prehistoire (2 vols.: Tervuren, Congres Panafricain 1962), 2:273-79. (Leopoldville) did Posnansky that they belonged in the later Iron Age a few Only afterwards appreciate at Lanet," Azania back ("Excavations centuries I have discussed these 2[1967], 89-114). sites in Sutton, and the Sirikwa: at Site II," Azania New Excavations "Hyrax Hill

22(1987), 1-36; and "HyraxHill and theLater Archaeology of theCentral Rift Valley of
Kenya," Azania 33(1998), 73-112.

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his field and excavation methods

his own cursory accounts,

as the different
as well as pho

to demand,

tographs, show that he was constantly in a hurry and not necessarily careful about clean vertical sections. He could also be casual about labeling finds and keeping records. Professionally he had no one to whom to answer in the field or with whom to discuss strategy and methods, let alone the findings, own his and the occasional assistants except visiting geologist interested in lacustrine their for climatic and volcanics, rifting, significance deposits, an More in 1929 he for academic party (on changes. particularly, arranged its way home from the British Association conference in South Africa) to detour into Kenya to see the Rift Valley and the excavations in Gamble's of that party, the geologist, Cave. One member Professor Percy G.H. returned five years later to examine the site of Kanam in western Boswell, team had unearthed a fossilized fragment of jaw where Kenya, Leakey's which he thought?from its morphology and the early stratum in which it was embedded?would and revolutionize thinking on human evolution criti draw international scientific attention to his work. Among Boswell's cal, if not damning, observations was the careless way in which the position of the find, so essential for verifying its geological age and associations, had
been recorded.24

source of confusion which dogged the archeol The Nakuru Burial Site?the next the first of several cairns and the for of ogy fifty years?was Kenya in the and designated "Neolithic." 1920s which graves Leakey investigated The rationale for importing to sub-Saharan Africa this label?which figured not and Near East?was in the archeology of Europe, the Mediterranean, criterion the out in his determining Implicitly, early publications. spelled was ments,

the presence

of pottery together with "advanced" ground-stone hollowed stone bowls peculiar to this region.25 the including



Virginia Morell, inWhite African, 25See Leakey's Stone


career is told by Sonia Cole, Leakey's in Leakey's Luck, 94f, and as as well Passions 84f, 1997), (New York, by Louis himself and By the Evidence, for the discovery, 34f, for the sequel. 310-11, inserted into and extra information in his Stone Age Cultures account

and the conspectus of East Africa, with by Sonia Cole, The Prehistory Age Races, work of the late 1930s at Hyrax Hill and Njoro its attempt to incorporate Mary Leakey's see my "Hyrax Hill" recent overview and interpretation, River Cave. For a more (1998). cul did hint that "Neolithic" Stone Cultures, 243; 194), (Stone Age Age Africa, Leakey tures might regarded aspect when for evidence difficult be such associated an economic with but it is not clear that he and pastoralism, agriculture or reflected far on that for the definition, essential criterion

to search the label in the 1920s. He did not seem very concerned applying would have been technically and identification of cultivated plants (recovery in those early excava there and then) or to identify bones of cattle or goats/sheep

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and Reconstructing


in the Kenya



But equally influential in his thinking, apparently, was a poorly articulat should constitute the final episode of the Stone ed notion that the Neolithic
Age here as anywhere else, as if a normal or essential stage in human cultur

to stake out completely new al evolution. For, despite in conceptual back equatorial Africa, Leakey's territory archeological as already shown, distinctly Eurocentric or, more precisely, ground was, and prehis moulded on the trends then current in British anthropological his bold decision toric circles. Distant parts of the world, East Africa imagination, might produce shattering discoveries in particular in Leakey's to revolutionize under

his excitement about the "oldest yet" standing of human history?hence and Cave, Olduvai, skeleton, skull or fossil fragment from Gamble's the significance of these, in Europe as much as Africa, would Kanam?but be recognized best by speaking the same language for the Stone Age and by
using, or manipulating as appropriate, the currently received framework for

fitting his sensational finds. In the same way he needed, for the recent end of his sequence, a in East Africa. And with a cavalier attitude to theoretical niceties Neolithic and definitions, Leakey was not especially worried by the local peculiarities of his "Neolithic," as displayed at Nakuru and other sites in the district. These consisted almost invariably of burials, or disturbed remains of them, or extremely later archeologists have complained?limited containing?as tantalizing information on daily life.26
he did assume that the stone bowls and associated tions. However, pestles were for grind cultivated their normal occurrence with burials food, although ing grain or other possibly a special for the bulk of those found. While indicates that in no way funerary purpose rules out a connection with a food-producing economy, particularly issue of definitions it underlines the problematic and grasslands, from the material evidence. pastoralism legitimate in these deductions

He also had a Mesolithic (Stone Age Cultures, category chapter 8), another European too recent for true Palaeolithic term, to cater for materials status, but not suffi apparently In that category for the Neolithic accolade. he placed certain sites with ciently advanced blade and microlithic the former Elmenteitan, the latter Kenya Wilton, in tools, calling the latter case seem with to him after a South African inconsistent with type-site. his definitions, The even occurrence less so since of pottery with both did not he also found potsherds thou

so he thought, stone tools (see above) dating, what he took to be Aurignacian sands of years back in the (Upper) Palaeolithic. in the 1970s/1980s to subsume became fashionable 26The term "pastoral neolithic" the burials


and activity and adjacent high grassland sites in the Central Rift Valley dis tricts with evidence, either direct or inferred, of cattle and goats or sheep between roughly 1500 BCE and 500 CE. This dating is based tests, a method largely on radiocarbon were working on the inter unavailable when the Leakeys in the region. For commentary of radiocarbon results?and their misuse by naive archaeologists an antiquity for cattle-herding in this region greater than anywhere D.P. Collett world?see and P.T. Robertshaw, "Problems in the Interpretation of East Africa," carbon Dates: the Pastoral Neolithic African Archaeological 57-74. 1(1983), pretation claimed who else have in the Review

of Radio

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In fact, the concept of an East African Neolithic degenerated over the one term decades into of the succeeding inscrutability, acquiring a mystique in the minds of a wider readership which allowed itself to be mesmerized by archeological vocabulary while groping for clues to illumine the history of East Africa and its people. The nomenclature which Leakey chose, let alone the unclear defining criteria, did not help. Realizing early in his field research that this Neolithic in Kenya contained characteristics of its own, Leakey chose to label them "Gumban," that name derived from legendary forest-dwellers of Kikuyu country. He may or may not have been imagining at first that the burial cairns he was investigating in the Rift Valley grass to these vanished people of lands?a strikingly different terrain?belonged Kikuyu memory; maybe at this stage his thinking was not sufficiently rigor ous on either environmental or terminological considerations. But whichev er way, whether "Gumban" was conceived as an archeological term through naive reasoning or mere jest, it stuck, because not only the sites but also the artefacts collected around these burial cairns and retrieved in the excava tions had to be labeled?hence Gumban A and Gumban B, each with its dis tinctive pottery and set of stone bowls.27 After the publication of Stone Age Cultures in 1931, Leakey soon tired of such relatively recent materials as he concentrated on earlier Stone Age sites and those with long geological sequences or paleontological promise (from Olduvai Gorge to the Kavirondo/Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria). Thus the
of sorts for choosing the name Stone Age Cultures, 27See Leakey, 243, for an explanation to pressure "Gumban." Part of the blame here may be attributable from Leakey's supervi labels which might cultural sors, who were cautioning against adopting European imply as his fieldwork he that what sensed, hyperdiffusion. Apparently Leakey progressed, chose to be to call Gumban A was older than Gumban Site, investigated, as already explained, was that two distinct excavation, one the late Iron with twisted-roulette finds, among Age and arguably "neolithic") (i.e., more genuinely pre-iron stone bowls. But since the intrusive tion and shapes, it became A was best known Gumban called Nderit the Nakuru Burial B, entailing became Gumban that the first of these burials with that B. The problem types of pottery were decoration (Sirikwa), associated with distinctive B category. (nowadays usually as well as internal

combined the other and in decora

the burials

(Sirikwa) pottery was the more the unfortunate hallmark of this Gumban for its even more with all-over

grooving. Gumban

criteria of about the distinguishing perfectly explicit the of burial (essentially the pottery, the different methods or stone fur bowls found within. the of of cairn: Stone Races, (A 99), Age shapes styles to regard customs of tooth extraction: ther consideration ibid, 97.) He seemed comprised A and B?whether even if they might not have stood a rigorous test of cor indicators, the pottery, sets, which forming what he took to be two diagnostic to have weighed most decisively in his categorization of Gumban A and B?and cultural But it was

ware)?basket-shaped was never But Leakey

pottery exceptional external decoration

all as relevant relation. seems caused There

never acknowledged. confusion in the latter, one which Leakey the long-running museum also a Gumban C, a pot in the Cambridge being so labeled. That des his outline findings. published ignation was dropped by the time Leakey was

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and Reconstructing


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"Gumban cultures" with their pottery types and strange stone bowls, as dis covered in the restricted Nakuru-Elmenteita basin, were duly repeated in his but were successive books as the regional representatives of the Neolithic, not effectively rethought.28 Throughout, he continued to imagine the popu
lations concerned?the makers of the Gumban cultures, in his phrase?

unconnected with the existing peoples of this part of Africa; and by empha characteristics of their skulls, he drove a wedge sizing the non-negroid as well as providing and historical perceptions, between archeological ammunition for the Hamitic thesis. This divorcing of his archeology from his anthropology, and from any sense of African history, already firmly set in Louis Leakey's mind, domi nated the next round of research on the later archeology in the region, that of 1937 when (while engaged on the Kikuyu study) he set Mary to work at to Hyrax Hill on a mixture of burial and occupation features, ostensibly resolve outstanding problems of the nearby Nakuru Burial Site. In these sys tematic excavations Mary Leakey recognized several very distinct periods of activity, the oldest (at Hyrax Hill Site I) being designated a "variant" of Louis' local Neolithic, and yielding more examples of stone bowls and pot tery vessels. Many more of both these again, together with stone beads, ivory, gourds, basketry, and leatherwork, were excavated in 1938 with a jumble of slightly cremated burials at Njoro River Cave in the same district.29 These results not only complicated
strains on the fraught nomenclature,

the overall picture, but placed further

with the term "stone bowl cultures"

coming to be used as an umbrella covering Gumban A and B among its sev eral "variants." That is how Sonia Cole attempted to present the material for a wider public in the 1950s, while only partially appreciating the confu sions, in substance and labeling alike, stretching back to Louis Leakey's earliest excavations.30 In this way the so-called Gumban cultures and their
28Leakey, Stone Age Races, chapter 8, and idem, Stone Age Africa. at Njoro 29M.D. Leakey, and idem, Excavations "Hyrax Hill"; 1950); for commentary, my "Hyrax Hill."




1954 edition. In Cole's second edition of 1963 the confusion of East Africa, ^Prehistory was compounded the "stone bowl cultures" between Neolithic and Iron Age, by splitting both Gumban A and B being treated in the latter chapter. This was an over-reaction to the that Leakey's realization of roulette-decorated inclusion creeping pottery (designated Gumban B) under Neolithic of the Cole's ing Leakeys, must effort be wrong. Despite and uncritical these muddles follow at a synthesis was widely noted. Thus Grahame Clark in

his World Prehistory (Cambridge, 1961), 114; (2d ed.: Cambridge, 1969), 201, looking
a comprehensive the findings from outline, signals in attempting interpreted as indications sites near Nakuru of the early spread of pastoralism this far south in Africa?an has been not necessarily since, insight which broadly accepted though through identical reasoning. for economic these

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stone bowls acquired an almost symbolic importance in the developing interest in East African history, as well as archeology, despite their geo graphical restriction, essentially to this elevated section of the eastern Rift Valley where the Leakeys had been active.31 The notion of their represent is an artefact of the literature ing of a more general East African Neolithic and the way it has been read. Alongside subsequent attempts to sort and interpret the accumulating archeological materials, there has been a natural concern since the 1960s to to the existing populations, relate them historically to the and especially main language families and divisions of eastern Africa (Nilotic, Bantu, Cushitic, etc). This has involved some lively, and occasionally acrimonious,
discussion, some of the argument being over preferred nomenclature?or

condemnation of derogatory labels, or those reflecting racist mentality, cur rent in the colonial era?some of it reflecting genuine conceptual issues of and interpretation.32 archeological correlation, historical methodology, This was a subject Louis Leakey had never wanted to face (and one to which Mary Leakey warmed even less). More particularly, his obsession with reading racial types, and especially "non-negroid" ones, from the skulls he (and Mary) discovered and measured, gradually came to be disre exercise, so that this scientific barrier artificially garded as a misconceived erected between East African history and archeology was eventually pene trated. But he was the pioneer, in both fieldwork and archeological descrip tion. And significantly, so much of subsequent research has concentrated on the same geographical area and set of materials, or has worked outwards so that one can legitimately ask from these and reinterpreted accordingly, whether our understanding of the later archeology?and history of the peo ples?of Leakey interior East Africa experience. has not been permanently conditioned by the

3 research has revealed of this complex?variously varied manifestations Subsequent or "terminal Late Stone Age" called "Pastoral Neolithic" industries (blade or microlithic to stone etc)?both and in associated with pottery, the Rift the ground highlands along The term "Gumban" either side, in Kenya itself and extending into northern Tanzania. cultural has been generally both for cairn types and for broader discarded, however, assignations?although, being embedded with it! One also notices grappling Neolithic?and the term bestows 32See B.A. recently on recognizing some sort of academic in the literature, still find themselves students on retaining in some insistence quarters if in other parts of East Africa?as its equivalents an

kudos on the regional archeology. a Survey of East African History and J.A. Kieran, eds., Zamani: (Nairo eds., The Archaeological bi, 1968, 1974), relevant chapters; C. Ehret and M. Posnansky, 7 and Linguistic Reconstruction 1982), notably of African History (Berkeley, chapter in "Hyrax Hill and and my commentaries ("East Africa") (104-57); by Stanley Ambrose Ogot the Sirikwa," Azania 22-28; and "Hyrax Hill," 77-82. One obvious 22(1987), change has the purging of Hamites "half-" and other hyphenated from the Hamites) (including of this mentality the more remain detectable behind may vestiges vocabulary, although been "correct" classifications and attitudes.

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and Reconstructing


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As this and the preceding article have explained, Louis Leakey's archeology was conceptually and thus effectively divorced from his ethnography, excluded the question of historical processes, let alone a chronology, which could relate the existing Maasai and Kikuyu of the Kenya highlands to the (and inadvisedly populations and cultures which he classified as Neolithic labeled Gumban). On the far side of the Rift Valley, Huntingford similarly of the Nandi and other his separate Kalenjin study kept anthropological from his archeology, but in a different way. For one thing, the archeological features he identified on the landscape did not in his estimation stretch back to a Neolithic unlike Leakey, he had a definite historical age.33 Moreover, sense of chronology, yet he managed to deny any depth of settlement to the Kalenjin people living around him, or any suggestion of process in their cul tural development, through his ingenious invention of the Azanians. These
latter were presented as, in effect, an alien race?and, more than that, a

superior Hamitic black African?to

signs of former

one, with the vague connotation of their not being truly whom Huntingford attributed virtually all archeological

This imagined reconstruction required a population disjuncture through out the highlands only a few centuries ago, a highly unlikely implication, but one which did not seem so odd in the raw state of African studies obtaining
prove very

in the 1920s and 1930s. Even

influential, the reason being

then the Azanian

not so much its

theory did not

combination of

Kenya settler propagandist.

and historical


its tone should have

In fact,

as separate a


own rather Huntingford's prejudice?but too much He was the lone intellectual.


archeological study in the 1930s of some of the Sirikwa features on the east ern edge of Uasin Gishu, merely noted Huntingford's treatment, but in an dismissive And in the Sonia 1950s, Cole, in her Prehistory essentially way.34
Uasin recorded in a few places 33In fact, one type of feature which Huntingford in Nandi and Gishu could perhaps have qualified for the Neolithic as usually defined. category are the groups of large cairns, being burial monuments These of a pastorally-inclined which preceded the Sirikwa in the pre- or transitional Iron Age of the first mil population lennium CE or possibly earlier. This dating is attested not only by the (non-rouletted) pot blades recovered from these cairns, but also stratigraphically, occasion tery and obsidian or overlain see: my Archaeology al examples enclosures being encroached by Sirikwa of the Western Highlands "Remarks upon the History of 47,111-14; of Kenya, Huntingford. to the Nandi Records and Kony," Journal Nandi," 7; idem, "Miscellaneous Relating of the Royal Anthropological Institute Civilization of 439; idem, "The Azanian 57(1927), about lumping these cairns with the rest of 158, felt uncertain 7(1933), Kenya," Antiquity the local archeology in his Azanian more In this instance he was, atypically, package. killed to follow local rationalizations suggesting in nineteenth-century inter-Maasai conflicts. on the Uashin Gishu "Stone Structures 34A. Galloway, inclined 32(1935), 656-68. Galloway was a South that they were burials of warriors


Plateau," South African Journal African anatomist with an interest

of in

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of East Africa, feeling obliged to acknowledge every published contribution to the archeological in a brief, uncritical, record, subsumed Huntingford's and thoroughly confused section headed "Hamitic influence."35 This served in turn as an essential source for the idea of "Megalithic Cushites" having previously been dominant in the Kenya and northern Tanzania highlands, as argued by Murdock in his continental ethnohistorical survey.36 One might have expected the Azanians, with all their inherent improba bility and racist undertones, to have been quietly forgotten in the changing historiography of the African enlightenment of the late 1950s/1960s. But, as it happened, they were resurrected?and enthusiastically repackaged?by Basil Davidson, who was right then boldly searching for leads towards a positive and indigenous African history. In his Old Africa Rediscovered insisted on both the necessity and the possibili published in 1959, Davidson ty of such an endeavor by attacking not only the prevalent assumptions of to explain any advance or external initiatives and Hamitic influences achievement of note in the continent's history, but equally the established academic view that effective research progress was prevented by the dearth of (written) sources for the period before European contact.


in East Africa and a developing academic involvement (subsequently spend useful descrip medical school). The article contains ing part of his career at Makerere's a Kalenjin sec on local ethnology, the Elgeyo tions, but is confused (or Keyu, regarding tion) as some sort of Maasai. It was


article which alerted James Walton?in his ethno-arche apparently Galloway's and structures, African settlements (Pretoria, Village study of southern African note Huntingford's and to suggest wide-rang Azanian 1956), esp. 105-11 ?to hypothesis the (I)Nyanga if not actual connections, remains of eastern notably with ing parallels Walton's book of personal antiquarian observations ring. 1954), 275-77; 316-19. see also the revised and expanded edition of is beautifully but the text, being based on a combi illustrated, has a and existing literature (some of it poorly handled),

Zimbabwe. nation distinctly

35Cole, Prehistory (London, this book (New York, 1963), 36G.P. Murdock, work

Its Peoples and Their Culture History 1959)?a (New York, Africa: and systematic for its independent survey fol attempt at a continental interesting the archeo chapter 25 subsumes Although Murdock's principles. lowing North American so that the Megalithic as "Azanian," which features identified Huntingford logical as the Azanians it under another Cushites name, (to superficial readers) may appear had not actually article of 1933. His imagined read Huntingford's that Murdock appears and comparative-linguis being based on broad culture-historical dating of these Cushites, of the reconstruction is considerably tic pointers, older, in fact, while his overall historical

Kenya more

is considerably it has been shown, convoluted and misguided though highlands, on Cole only compounded of the unsoundness Murdock's reliance sophisticated. thence derived. The following the data cited, let alone any conclusions chapter of Mur a different the East deals with "Ancient dock's Azanians," book, subject and region, a connection that "Megalithic the author did assume African coast, although by arguing Cushites . .. descended the few miles from the Kenya highlands."

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To overturn this lethargic mentality, archeology had to be an essential at civilization" which Huntingford the "Azanian and Davidson tool, grasped had constructed from the random signs in the East African highlands and Rift Valley.37 In this exercise he emphasized the numerous abandoned set
tlements, agricultural terracing, road systems, and stone architecture, as

Huntingford and other even less reliable authorities had recorded them, and incorporated in the same complex the "town" of Engaruka situated in a low and arid stretch of the Rift Valley across the Tanzanian border. For informa tion on this last site Davidson relied on none other than Louis Leakey, who in 1935 had inspected these rambling "ruins," supposedly those of a "desert ed city," and estimated its population at thirty to forty thousand at least.38 That figure has since been discredited, along with Leakey's assumption that of extensive grid of stone-lined plots represents a multitude Engaruka's visible over an area of 2000 individual house sites. This grid ?clearly now recognized as the irrigated field system of a former com hectares?is munity of cultivators, the latter occupying a series of villages perched on the
overlooking escarpment.39

or exaggerated were the other components of Similarly misinterpreted "hut-cir the Azanian package as Davidson revived it. For Huntingford's in the western highlands of Kenya?skewed inter cles" and "pit-villages" so numerous not in fact?are necessarily pretations of Sirikwa cattle-pens, or indicative of population density when allowance is given for their having been made,
over "urban" several in any

used, and abandoned,

centuries. sense, Secondly, consisting of

like any rural constructions,

the stonework where rather revetting to banks than

is never free-stand

it occurs

ing walls to support roofs. Finally, old agricultural terracing is far more restricted than implied (Engaruka being in fact one of the rare occurrences of this); while the idea of "ancient roads" running across much of East Africa (let alone as commercial arteries linking "towns" such as Engaruka)
Old Africa Rediscovered edi 37Davidson, (London, 1959), chapter 8. For the American tion of this book, an alternative title, The Lost Cities of Africa, was preferred by the pub lisher. This alternative, less close to Davidson's has been per arguably original message, on both sides of the Atlantic. petuated by the most recent editions/reprints on Examination of the Engaruka Ruins," "Preliminary Tanganyika Report 38Leakey, Notes 57-60. Leakey was specially and Records asked by the Tanganyika 1(1936), gov an expert assessment ernment to make of Engaruka, in the wake of rumors and press reports Olduvai zania of this "lost metropolis." He and Mary accordingly detoured from their route Tan to in 1935. in Northern of a quite recent estimate for this centu

an Irrigation Agricultural 39See my site study, "Engaruka: Community before the Maasai," 1-37. Leakey's indication Azania 33(1998), date for Engaruka is broadly corroborated by later work. The current specialized agricultural community is from the fifteenth century ry approximately.

to the seventeenth

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had arisen from a combination of observations of cattle tracks and wild his torical romanticism.40 To be fair, no systematic re-evaluation of the various archeological features, let alone of the overall reasoning behind the Azanian had been attempted at the time Davidson wrote Old Africa hypothesis, Rediscovered', the abiding virtue of that book has been in provoking the nec essary directions of research.41 Davidson was fluent and persuasive, and always generous in naming
those motley on whose array of books explorers, and random government articles officials, he drew, from academics and to a missionaries, antiquari

ans, including the occasional crank, many of whom were still living when to less It was a procedure which conveyed he wrote. the impression informed readers that those whom he chose to cite and quote were invari ably commendable pioneers in the subject. He was reluctant to distinguish the more reliable observers or judicious commentators from the less plausi ble, the enlightened minds from the reactionaries. It was a supremely gra cious way of putting a revolutionary message, and deceptive too in blithely fact deftly reversing, without giving the game away?the overlooking?in if not downright racist reasoning of many of the "authorities" outmoded
whose work he ransacked for information.

Thus, while he was scathing in his exposing in general terms the prevail ing "inarticulate major premise" of African history in which Hamites, whether defined or vaguely construed, were imagined superior to the gener al run of Africans, and saw it his mission to blast this with all the argument and eloquence at his disposal, Davidson desisted, as a matter of civility, from lambasting contemporary scholars by name, however acutely aware he was of their lingering colonial attitudes.42 In particular, Huntingford's
above. ^See 41 The inherent

of Davidson's highland untenability picture of East African soon pointed out by critics, and in later editions of Old Africa Rediscovered/Lost this section was modified. Africa 42Davidson, Old Africa thoughtlessly regurgitating, such a racist notion before,

history was Cities of


and elsewhere

to task for took Sonia Cole 30-31. Here Davidson Rediscovered, in her Prehistory only five years of East Africa published some dubious in attributing features on Mount archeological to "intelligent" and by implication in the highlands Hamites, deny

But typi to the ancestors of the existing (1954,277). people ing any useful achievement a way to avoid anything that might ridicule rather?in cally he framed his criticism?or as a personal Cole by name or citing the book attack. Instead of mentioning be construed to "an otherwise student alluded serious anthropological and offending page, he politely Davidson of East Africa." That fastidiously civil manner of commenting notwithstanding, recent part of East must to synthesize the most doubtless have found Cole's attempt African to summarize and the Leakeys' work of previous decades (in effect "prehistory" to lead nowhere to tack on various in the extreme, in that it seemed loose ends) frustrating and offered no sense of a history for the existing people of East Africa. The role of "intel ligent" but unspecified Hamites, as Cole seemed to imagine them, only increased the

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and Reconstructing


in the Kenya



and labeling them Hamitic would be con reconstruction of the Azanians demned as colonialist if not racist by any modern commentator, but David son did not cast any personal aspersion as he appropriated Huntingford's archeological documentation; nor did he drop a hint that he was turning it to a radically different historical purpose which might excite enlightened
thinking in the independence era.43 Thus the Azanians, as Davidson present

ed them to a new generation of readers, were no longer Hamites; they had a suggestion, albeit "real" Africans?with become, without explanation, been settled Bantu! that have vague, they might Equally surprising, so it may appear now, the Hamites were not from Davidson's story. Instead of being consigned as a mythical to the racist scrapheap, their role was neatly reversed. No longer invoked as superior civilizers, Davidson reprieved them, only to tar them was It these invaders from the north?pastoral with the opposite image. expunged construct
nomads, barbarian Hamites?who were to blame for infiltrating and eventu

the sedentary Azanian "civilization" of old East ally overwhelming Africa.44 As northern barbarians, the Hamites are presented as some other lot of Goths and destructive Vandals clamoring at the gates of the civilized world, if not as hordes of pastoralist Huns on the move across the plains.

and widened the gulf between and archeological mystification ethnographic approaches to the region's past. to com Old Africa Rediscovered, intention Davidson's 43Davidson, chapter 8. Despite reverse the the title of this resonates "After with the Axum," pletely prejudice, chapter, diffusionist nections con of the Hamitic school, which vague north-south assumptions imagined or eastern down the "highland of in Africa ancient times. medieval Here, spine" as also with his treatment of Kush on the Middle not to lose the he was anxious Nile, ingredients to discuss

of a story which could hold together broad regions of the continent. I intend towns and deserted this in a forthcoming article on African sites. as "immigrants" 194-95. Davidson's characterization of Lwoo, Hima, and Maasai ^Ibid, and "relatively barbarian hamites" may nowadays be deemed inaccurate as well as unfair. His a somewhat stand became bias, with undiscriminating anti-pastoralist as in the colonial tribal stereotypes. being as loosely defined he did not elaborate hinted that the same imagined pastoral here, Davidson Although some higher influx from the north upset in the interlacustrine civilization established to the historical roots of the earthworks in of Bigo region: see ibid., 249, alluding vaguely western illustrated to Azanian stone Uganda, by plate 28, as if a westerly counterpart anti-Hamitic pastoralism building. falling, with

tone he was In general the common idea of civilizations and invoking rising a vein of thinking reflected the Roman Empire in particular in mind, in the title to a later chapter, "Decline and Fall," to explain what had happened to Gibbonesque "Old Africa." Compare veiled analogy, noted in the previous article (307), Huntingford's with image lancz), similar Roman of as understood Britain, the Azanians. Davidson in British (with his intellectual of his generation, for his Victor Gol publisher, left-wing at the close of the colonial a era, assumed educated circles

to enlightened in appealing thinking cultural background of his readership.

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Huntingford must doubtless have disapproved profoundly of such radical manipulation of his work of many years back, but he did not, it seems, react intervention was to press the openly.45 The positive side of Davidson's obvious archeological opportunities?and need for renewed investigation? in the western highlands of Kenya and by implication to begin rethinking ways of reconstructing African history more broadly. In that way Hunting ford's pioneer recording, alongside his collection of ethnographic and lin guistic data, has been, for all the oddities of his interpretations, of lasting

45Huntingford's after Davidson's delays Oxford 46Having occurring




the Azanian

hypothesis, it was very


time with


included?in the Oxford History of East Africa /?was

Old Africa Rediscovered. the planning between But and eventual

published in 1963, four years

likely written of appearance before that, the collaborative

Merrick 1960s?with up encouragement?followed Posnansky's I in Nandi, and adjacent Uasin Gishu, districts, archeological recording Huntingford's in be the first to acknowledge also Basil Davidson's role as a medium this?and would a new and a search for positive look at old evidence historical interpreta provoking in my Archaeology tions?as (Nairobi, of Kenya of the Western Highlands attempted on the East African the same, the unlikelihood of all the random materials 1973). All as well as the fanciful the soundly titbits which made documented up the landscape, to a single era and "civilization" Azanian ought to have been obvious belonging package, of simple logic, not one requiring archeological sooner, since it was a question expertise. early hint to this effect, though not based on close acquaintance was by Gervase in question, features "The East African Mathew, East Africa 1:100. An with Coast," the region or the in History of

History. in the early

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